House Intelligence Committee Hearing on the Mueller Report and Counterintelligence

The House Intelligence Committee is holding a hearing this morning on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications. I just noticed that C-Span was not airing it until a few minutes ago. And the cable news networks don’t appear to be broadcasting it either. I’m not sure if this is a result of the snooze fest that was Monday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller Report or because they were expecting to cover several hours of hearings by the House Oversight Committee culminating in a contempt vote for both Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross. That vote has been postponed until, at least, this afternoon. So for those interested, here’s the live feed of the ongoing House Intelligence Committee on the Mueller Report and its counterintelligence implications.

Open thread!

The Only Way Out is Through: There Can Never Be a Return to What Was Normal

I cannot count how many times – in briefings, in operational planning team meetings, in working groups, in other meetings – that I have stated to Soldiers, members of the other uniformed Services, and civilians from the Interagency that one of the end states we should be trying to achieve is not a return to what was normal. That there is no going back to how things were, whether in real life in Iraq or Afghanistan or in a war game’s scenario, the minute before the enemy invaded, the tanks rolled across the border, and/or the air campaign began. Whatever existed politically, socially, economically, religiously, and in regard to kinship as normal for that state and society ended as soon as the invasion started. The whole point of what we were trying to achieve is to establish enough stability to create enough space to begin to build a new normal. And that while the new normal would include some of the old normal, a lot of what existed in the old normal was gone forever. And trying to get it back or reestablish it was a waste of resources.

I was heartened to hear Mayor Buttigieg express this reality during his speech at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner yesterday (it should be queued up at the 4:31 mark):

For those who can’t watch the video, for whatever reason, he said:

We’re not going to win by playing it safe or promising to return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke.

This is not the first time that he has said something like this. From January:

I get the urge people will have after Trump. ‘Look at the chaos and the exhaustion: Wouldn’t it be better to go back to something more stable with somebody we know?’ But there’s no going back to a pre-Trump universe. We can’t be saying the system will be fine again just like it was. Because that’s not true; it wasn’t fine. Not if we could careen into this kind of politics.

I’m not advocating anyone support the Mayor, let alone anyone else. There are three candidates in the Democratic primary that I’m very enthused about, and another 1/2 dozen or so who I could live with as the nominee and eventually as president. Though I expect that most of the candidates will be out of contention and out of the campaign by the late Fall. But what Mayor Buttigieg is stating is something that is very, very important for everyone to hear, understand, accept, and internalize. And that’s not just because it is what I’ve been telling military and Interagency personnel for over a decade. Or that it’s nice to imagine that Mayor Buttigieg read one of my assessments during his time mobilized in Navy Intelligence and internalized the point I was trying to make. Rather it is because this is our real reality.

There is no going back to how things were before January 21, 2017 or November 8, 2016 or June 15, 2015. The America that we knew on those days – good, bad, and ugly – no longer exists. We can no more restore that America as we can the fantasy of a bygone America that lives in the minds of the Freedom Caucus members, the Tea Partiers, Senator McConnell’s gilded age fetishism, or the theocratic herrenvolk democracy of Vice President Pence.

We can only move forward and attempt to establish a new normal, a new American political, social, economic, and religious equilibrium. That new normal will include some parts of the old normal, hopefully the best parts, but it cannot be the old normal. And doing so won’t be easy. It is easy to break a state, a society, a culture. It is hard to repair them once broken.

The only way out is through.

Open thread.

America at Its Best and at Its Worst: D-Day at 75, the Voyage of the Damned at 80

It is one of those historical ironies that the 6th of June is the anniversary of both the US at its best and at its worst in the 20th Century. Apparently the universe does have a sense of humor. As Cheryl’s post noted, today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy. President Eisenhower’s remarks that day, made when he was Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, capture America at its best. Striving hard to live up to its self declared ideals and willing to pay in blood to do so.

Just five years before, however, the US failed to live up to its self declared ideals. On the 6th of June, 1939 the passengers of the S.S. St. Louis, all Jewish refugees fleeing NAZI tyranny and certain death in the camps, received the final notification that they would not be even allowed to temporarily make port at Isle of Pines/Isla de Juventad while they waited for their US entry visas to process. This was a last ditch effort to make a landfall in Cuba after the refugees had been turned away from reaching safety in the United States without the finalization of their requested entry visas.

The refugees aboard The St. Louis, like refugees and asylum seekers today, had grabbed their children and what little they could carry and risked everything traveling thousands of miles across the Atlantic while their entry visa applications were being processed. They did so because to stay where they were meant death. And because at the end of their voyage, what would ultimately become the Voyage of the Damned, was supposed to be hope, safety, and freedom. The end of their voyage was supposed to be the United States. The refugees aboard The St. Louis made their trip because of their hopes and prayers as liberty-loving people. Hopes and prayers that ultimately fell on deaf ears. For 254 of the refugees aboard The St. Louis, the end of their voyage wasn’t hope, safety, freedom, and a new life in the US, it was death in the NAZI camps. For the rest it was the fight to survive in the camps or as refugees in other states or fighting with the partisans throughout Europe.

Five years. Five years were all that separated the failure of the US and Americans to live up to their ideals and their valiant efforts, dearly paid for with blood, to do so. Five years were all that separated the America and the Americans that would turn away those fleeing from danger through danger with the hope of reaching safety in the United States and the America and the Americans that would ultimately rewrite the United States immigration laws post World War II to ensure that there would never again be a Voyage of the Damned. And 75 years later, the co-religionist of the doomed refugees aboard The St. Louis, himself the grandson and great-grandson of refugees, actively seeks to ensure that the United States will be the America of the Voyage of the Damned and not the America of D-Day. And all without even a peep of opposition of the President’s Orthodox Jewish son in law, himself the grandson of Polish Jews who fled into the forest and refuge with the famed Bielsky brothers.

The US has always had this tension. This war between its self proclaimed ideals and its actual reality. On D-Day itself, as they were denied their rights at home as second class citizens in the US, African American troops placed their lives on the line to, quote Eisenhower, destroy the “NAZI tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe,  and [achieve] security for ourselves in a free world”.

These African American soldiers, many/most in the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only all African American unit to storm the beach at Normandy, took heavy casualties in both making the landing and carrying out their mission of deploying their barrage balloons to protect Allied aircraft.

Now they’re all but forgotten.

There used to be a prevailing myth that no black men participated in D-Day — by far one of the most important days of World War II.

But a closer look reveals that some African-American soldiers played a key role on Omaha Beach, and their stories still remain largely untold.

“There were no (Congressional) Medals (of Honor) given to any black soldiers for what they did at D-Day,” said 90-year-old Joann Snowden Woodson. “People really need to know the truth.”

Woodson has been on a consistent mission to share the truth of D-Day with the world, as well as the service of her late husband, Waverly Bernard Woodson — one of the few black soldiers known to have served on Omaha Beach that fateful day.

Originally from West Philadelphia, Waverly Woodson was a member of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, an all-black Army unit that specialized in placing barrage balloons in battle areas during World War II. Their goal was to distract and destroy enemy aircraft and provide cover for Allied soldiers on the ground.

Waverly Woodson and his Battalion left England on June 5, 1944. They arrived on the beach in Normandy via transport boat the next day.

“He said he could see the soldiers being picked off just like flies,” Joann Woodson reiterated. “Some of them were dead; some of them he had to administer the last rites. And some of them — I think he said he had to do amputations and everything.”

Waverly Woodson died in 2005, but Joann Woodson was there when he provided testimony before Congress years prior. She recalled her husband’s many stories of that day.

At 21, he was one of a handful of medics who tended to the wounded under enemy fire. Waverly Woodson’s leg and buttocks were sliced by shrapnel, but he worked through the pain, saving lives on the shore.

“He really thinks that, all told, it could have been 200 to 300 men,” she added.

Waverly Woodson collapsed from exhaustion 30 hours after landing on Omaha Beach. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.

He was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor in the ’40s, but no black soldiers received such high recognition at the time. Then, records of his service, along with those of millions of other soldiers, were destroyed in a fire in 1973.

Today, all that remains is a single memo regarding his extraordinary feats.

“Here is a Negro hero from Philadelphia who has been recommended for a suitable award. … This is a big enough award so that the President can give it personally, as he has in the case of some white boys,” stated the 1944 U.S. Department of War memo to the Franklin D. Roosevelt White House.

The memo was discovered by Linda Hervieux, author of “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.”

There is only one surviving Soldier from the 320th still alive on this 75th anniversary. Here is his reminiscence of D-Day:

The Soldiers of the 320th Barrage Battalion were not the only African Americans that paradoxically found themselves fighting for liberty and freedom against tyranny in Europe while denied their full civil rights and liberties at home in the US. There were also the much better known Tuskegee Airmen.

D-Day’s 75th anniversary, which also happens to be the 80th anniversary of the closing off of the last chance, the last bit of hope, for the refugees aboard The St. Louis, shows the paradox of the US. We set and self proclaim high ideals and values for ourselves. On June 6, 1939 we failed to live up to those ideals. On June 6, 1944 we paid in blood to live up to them. And because of what American Soldiers – Soldiers who were white and African American and Latino, Christian and Jewish –  saw as they fought across Europe, after World War II the US changed its immigration laws so that it wouldn’t fail to live up to its ideals as it had in 1939. Will we learn the lessons of D-Day, learn to risk all to live up to our ideals as Americans or will we fall way short as we did on the same day five years earlier. That is the question of D-Day’s 75th anniversary. The answer is up to us.

Open thread.

Adam L. Silverman served as a senior advisor (Cultural Advisor) under temporary assigned control to the Commanding General of US Army Europe from January to June 2014 and then under operational (direct) control from July to August 2014.


Lest We Forget: Bearing Witness to the Brutality of Our Past to Better Prevent It In Our Future

Today is Jefferson Davis’s birthday. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, but the state of Alabama marks this day as an official holiday. To recognize this dishonor perpetrated and perpetuated by the state of Alabama on its citizenry, The Montgomery Advertiser chose to run the testimonials of nine former Alabama slaves.

‘Where was the Lord?’: On Jefferson Davis’ birthday, 9 slave testimonies

The voices of five men and four women, once held in human bondage, interviewed in Alabama in 1937.

Updated 7 hours ago

Today the state of Alabama marks the birthday of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. A state holiday, state offices are closed throughout Alabama. Davis, who at one point owned more than 100 slaves, led a government resting on the principle of white supremacy. The Confederate Constitution contained a provision explicitly prohibiting any law “impairing the right of property in negro slaves,” and his vice president, Alexander Stephens, said the “cornerstone” of the new government “rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” 

Davis was a racist. In a speech to the U.S. Senate in 1860, the then-senator from Mississippi said slavery was “a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves,” adding “We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race by the Creator, and from cradle to grave, our government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.” After his inauguration as president of the Confederacy, Davis said “We recognized the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him. Our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude.”

From 1936 to 1938, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency, sent workers throughout the South to collect oral histories from survivors of slavery, eventually conducting more than 2,000 interviews, including at least 129 in Alabama. The workers were not necessarily trained interviewers, and scholars have noted that the race of the interviewer often had a major effect on the answers the former slaves gave. But the testimonies preserve the voices of those who experienced a hell that Davis and other white southerners were willing to destroy the country to protect.

There is a video at the link with the testimonials of four slaves – Delia Garlic, William Colbert, Laura Clark, and George Young – narrated by Dr. Wendy R. Coleman of the University of Alabama. There testimonials, and those of five other former slaves are also transcribed by The Montgomery Advertiser.

Here is the abolitionist variant of My Country Tis of Thee.

When you hear some twit in 2019, like Jared Kushner did of the Palestinians last night, that they aren’t ready to govern themselves, remember that they’re the same make, model, and type as Jefferson Davis and the other traitorous Confederates that tried to destroy the United States and whose ideological and theological descendants are still trying to do so.

Open thread!

The Need to Speak With One Voice: Strategic Communication and Message Discipline Going Into the 2020 Election Cycle

One of the major frustrations for a lot of people now, as well as a seemingly lively source of discussion in the comments over the past couple of days, is why the Democrats and the center left to left of center organizations that support them cannot seem to get on the same page with their strategic messaging. And why are the Republicans and the conservative movement that supports it able to do so. The latter question is much easier to answer: the Republican Party, Republicans in elected and appointed positions, and the leaders and members of the conservative movement that support them, coordinate their messaging, produce uniform talking points, distribute them, use them, and then have them reinforced by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting’s local affiliates through mandated editorials, conservative/right wing talk radio, and conservative print, social, and digital media. And all of this is amplified by Russian military intelligence, as well as other states such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others who all have their own strategic objectives regarding the US and its policies.

All of this coordination and amplification are the result of Republicans, the conservative movement that supports them, the conservative organizations that do as well, and the conservative news, opinion, social, and digital media ecosystem largely speaking to white Christians. Mostly older, usually suburban to rural, and broadly evangelical, though their social and religious conservative coalition also includes traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints*. And this coordination and amplification produces results like this:

Here’s the transcript:

The Democrats, the center left to left of center organizations that support them, or, in some cases, work against them for not being pure enough, and the broad center to center left to liberal to progressive to left of center multi-ethnic, multi-religious, more urban, but also suburban, and some rural, multi-generational coalition that makes up the Democratic Party have a much harder time coordinating messaging. Some of that, of course, is evident in the previous sentence. It is hard to coordinate across so many different groups and their interests. The Republican Party has reduced itself to the representatives of a very narrow portion of Americans and, as a result, only has to message to that narrow portion of Americans. The Democratic Party is, for better or for worse, trying to represent not just everyone else, but also the narrow portion that is the Republican Party despite being hated and despised by Republicans. That makes developing a unified message, coordinating it across all potential communicators, and then enforcing message discipline much, much, much harder. It is further complicated by institutional and systemic issues that the Democrats cannot control, such as journalists who cover politics embracing bothsiderism and the view from nowhere because they think it will get Republicans and conservatives to stop abusing them. It won’t. All it does is make them the refs who are constantly being worked. And they succumb to their abusers every time. To the point that they preemptively abuse themselves.

Another complication right now, especially in regard to Special Counsel Mueller’s findings and what to do about them, is that there are just too many voices. I cannot prove it, as I’m not privy to her strategy, but my take on Speaker Pelosi’s response to the Special Counsel’s report and how to proceed is because she recognizes that she will only get one chance to use what Bob Mueller brought to light, if she acts prematurely, if the course of action is not completely effective, then she’s simply left the President, as a political creature, wounded, but enraged. She also, unfortunately, has to manage the half a dozen committee chairs most involved with ongoing inquiries into these and related matters pertaining to the Russian interference in the 2016 elections; the President’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, his administration’s, and other Republican elected and appointed officials’ financial and other connections and relations with Russians connected to Putin and his government; the President’s, his family’s, and his business’s finances, and related criminal and/or constitutional violations. That’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of information coming to light, a lot of people trying to communicate that information. And it results in a lot of noise drowning out the signal.

If I was advising Speaker Pelosi, I would recommend a slightly different approach. Specifically that she should appoint a Select Committee for the review of the Special Counsel’s findings and related matters. This would allow the House Democratic Caucus to speak with one voice – that of the select committee’s chairman or chairwoman. And have one singular coordinating point for the development and dissemination of relevant information. This wouldn’t be the immediate opening of impeachment, but, rather, the opening of a select committee specifically intended to look into all of these matters holistically to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. The existing committee investigations should still continue, but their purposes would be to feed the necessary information into the select committee. It would create a singular source point, a singular point of activity, and a singular point of contact for the Democratic majority’s inquiry to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. This makes more strategic communication sense than having to watch a half a dozen different committees work as the focus would be on the select committee and its work.

While this won’t solve the larger problem of too many messages, too many voices, and too little coordination of them, which is the curse that arises from the blessing that is the broad and deep coalition that makes up the Democratic Party, it will resolve them for the inquiries into Russia’s ongoing undeclared war against the United States, Russia’s active measures campaign as part of that war to help elect the President, and the President’s, his administration’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, and into the GOP’s own entanglements with Russia as it prosecutes its undeclared war against the United States. Pursuing this course of action would focus the attention on the select committee and make it easier for Americans to follow what is happening in the investigation and harder for the journalists focusing on politics to get distracted by shiny objects. Which, in turn, would actually make it easier for Speaker Pelosi to move to impeachment should the Democratic majority in the House determine it should do so.

Open thread!

* As I’ve written here before, if these folks ever get their way – the establishment of a white, Christian herrenvolk democracy – the evangelicals will first turn on the traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints they’ve convinced to sign on and once they’ve purged these groups and their members, the evangelicals will turn on each other over their own, intra-evangelical theological and dogmatic disputes. Sort of a domestic Thirty Years War.